Now this is what you call a warm reception.
Sure, the heat index was at 95 degrees, even at sundown, at Accra Sports Stadium.
But the welcome received for the Ghana Jesus Festival had nothing to do with the sweltering African April climate.
Ghana President John Evans Atta Mills, along with the First Lady, made a personal appearance on Saturday night, with President Mills taking the podium to welcome Rev. Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
His words were not what you would expect from a head of state.
Direct. Bold. And, in the end, prophetic.
“We need the Word of God,” said President Mills, an outspoken Christian, who recently declared a nationwide week of Thanksgiving and fasting. “It is my hope and prayer that the message (Franklin Graham) gives us will fall on fertile soil.
And with hundreds flooding the stage area during Franklin Graham’s invitation to give their heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, one thing was clear Saturday night — the Gospel certainly did not fall on dry or dusty ground.
The President’s prayer was simply that “nobody will leave here the same.”
While impossible to quantify, there were so many heartfelt prayers and spiritual conversations taking place at the packed north end of this popular fútbol stadium, it appeared the Holy Spirit was swirling.
“Jesus said I will never leave you or forsake you,” Franklin Graham said, whose message, centered on the Prodigal Son, was heard by more than 10,000 Ghanaians. “Will you come tonight to your Heavenly Father?”
One of the last Ghanaians to come forward, Rafael, 28, stood at the edge of the crowd, about four feet inside the goalie box at Accra Sports Stadium.
Wearing faded jeans and a long-sleeved white linen shirt with two-toned sandals, Rafael met up with Stephen, a 30-year-old counselor, who shared thoroughly what it meant to be a Christian.
Rafael was anxious to get at the heart of the issue. Literally.
“He had doubts,” Stephen said. “He was not sure.”
So shortly before security ushered the two men off the field — this after all is a well-manicured FIFA-regulated field that hosts Ghana’s national team matches — Stephen led Rafael in a prayer to receive Christ.
“After going through the Scriptures, he said he’s convinced,” Stephen said.
With outstretched arms, and eyes tightly shut, Rafael passionately called out to God, repeating after Stephen:
“I invite you to come into my heart and life.”
“I want to trust and follow you.”
“As my Lord and Savior.”
“In Jesus Name. Amen.”
Moments later, Rafael clutched his face with both hands, with an overwhelming look for several minutes.
Stephen, however, was the one in awe at how God works. Even though he’s experienced this privilege before.
“When just one person gets saved there is joy,” Stephen said. “But seeing all these people accept Christ, there is so much joy.”
The two exchanged contact information, with Rafael asking, “to be remembered in prayer” as he has a strong desire to get involved in a local church. Stephen committed to a follow-up call.
“He was snatched from Hell,” Stephen said. “And now he’s in the Kingdom.”
And what are the chances that a young man’s soul was saved in the same spot where so many meaningless goals have been saved throughout the years?
In hindsight, Stephen felt bad about standing on the field, but considering the crowds and what was at stake, he didn’t feel he had much of a choice.
“It was Kingdom business,” he said.
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